Friday, December 28, 2018

Thomas Mann by Wislawa Szymborska

Dear mermaids, it was bound to happen.
Beloved fauns and honourable angels,
evolution has emphatically cast you out.
Not that it lacks imagination, but
you with your Devonian tail fins and alluvial breasts,
your fingered hands and cloven feet,
your arms alongside, not instead of, wings,
your, heaven help us, horns sprouted out of spite,
illegitimate beaks, this morphogenetic potpourri, those
finned or furry frills and furbelows, the couplets
pairing human/heron with such cunning
that their offspring knows all, is immortal, and can fly,
you must admit that it would be a nasty joke,
excessive, everlasting, and no end of bother,
one that mother nature wouldn't like and won't allow.

And after all she does permit a fish to fly,
deft and defiant.  Each such ascent
consoles our rule-bound world, reprieves it
from necessity's confines--more
than enough for the world to be a world.

And after all she does permit us baroque gems
like this: a platypus that feeds its chicks on milk.
She might have said no--and which one of us would know
that we'd been robbed?

                    But the best is that
she somehow missed the moment when a mammal turned up
with its hand miraculously feathered by a fountain pen.